Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Project 337

Last Friday, no school. The district leaves a make up day on the calendar in case of emergency cancellations during the year. Think snow days. But, even though this is Utah, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics and "the best snow on Earth," we NEVER have snow days because this is Utah, home of Pioneer Spirit and who in their right mind would call off school on acount of a few inches or 36 of snow? C'mon cowboy up, stop your complaining and trudge you big pansy. Literally, I have had to walk ahead of the girls to break a path for them to get to school because there was no way, even if we could get the car out of the garage, to drive them there. But I digress.
So, with a day to kill, we had our choice, this expedition into the art world or the one I chose, pictured above in all my phone's .3 megapixels of power. Cool huh? When they think of art, this is what I want them to think of first. They may reject my sensibilities when they get older and form their own opinions about stuff and the world, but I'm the mom and for now, they have to look at this.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Who's on first

Okay, because I can't always figure out how to respond to comments in private when there’s no gmail account associated with a comment entry, I'll do it in public, because I've already blown any hope for anonymity with this blog. And here’s why if many of you were wondering how I could be so irresponsible as to spread my children all over the web without cute aliases or more care to protect their privacy (which I’ll have to move on soon, password protect or something.)

When I adopted YuYu in 2004, I used a Yahoo egroup* and could approve/deny requests to join the group and guarantee that I was sharing all my personal laundry with people to whom I was already acquainted. So, when I geared up the travel machine to go retrieve Nora in 2006, technology had advanced so rapidly that any fool could create a blog and that’s what this fool did. When I created this blog, it was with the intent to treat it as a travel log and share the address only with people who could give a hoot about my particular madness and me. However, a week into the trip while we were still in Nanning, Stefani, the China coordinator for my adoption agency, prevailed upon me to post the address to the agency egroup (a very large and busy busy group) as a precautionary tale. When you adopt an older child fresh out of an institution, the transition is not always rainbows and salt water taffy. Stefani, bless her, thought it would be good for prospective parents who were considering the adoption of an older child to see the spectacle unfold live and in full color. Kind of a gut check for the uninitiated.

So with not much consideration and in the spirit of public service, I opened this blog, that was never intended to be public, to the inspection of many, and found that I liked writing more than I had admitted to myself and here it is, too much disclosure and not enough privacy. But this gal lives in the same hood and from what I can tell, has not been stalked by wackos, so it may not be that urgent, but I will have to deal with the privacy issues soon. But this gal is taking all the good ideas and I don’t want to be a copy cat (and, no, I’m not that delusional to make any comparison between my weak musings and this gal who is making a GOOD living with her blog (her house is on the non-ghetto side of Foothill) and it's just my lame attempt to be hip and facetious). I’m almost prostrate with frustration because I can’t find the courage to fight the crowds at the new IKEA that opened up down the interstate this week, prostrate I tell you, but she already beat me to the blog and she grows bad body art too and tells the story much better. If I ever run into her at the Dan’s, I’ll just have to snub her.

So, to Abby in MA and Carrie, here’s the roster:

Ellie is really Elizabeth Arlene Fu Yan. She was matched to me in early December 1997 just before she turned one. But we didn’t travel to China (bad agency, bad, I think they could have easily avoided the delay) until end of February 1998. She was meant to be Eleanor, but my mother, with whom she shares the name Arlene, did not approve of Eleanor and me, with no spine, knuckled under and agreed to use Elizabeth with the same nickname I had in mind if she had been named Eleanor. But it wasn’t that much of a sacrifice. I love the name Elizabeth and had/have two great and good friends who share her namesake rights. Mrs. Siska, alive, kicking and kicky and worried about her salvation (very devout former nun) and my dear Liz, taken by bone cancer too soon. Ellie is ten, in fourth grade and being her mom is as easy as falling off a log into marshmallow fluff.

Next came Mimi, who is really Meredith Jean Fuling. When I started the paperwork for Ellie, the social worker who completed my homestudy had adopted two as a single and recommended that I consider someday bringing a sibling for Ellie into the family. Since I had just come to terms with the idea that I was going to be a mother and solely responsible for a child, my reaction to this advice, was, I’m sure, under whelming: I stared blankly, then snorted derisively. No way no how. But after a few years, I got the hang of parenting, Ellie who was the. most. low. maintenance. child. ever and I went for it. I had no name in mind except for Jean, after my funny wonderful maternal grandmother. I was reading Charles Schultz’ obituary and his daughter Mimi (Meredith) was mentioned and I thought: Mimi Mei Mei, Mimi Mei Mei, perfect for little sister. Mimi came home a week before the Trade Tower attack in 2001.

Then came YuYu, who is really Kathryn Marta Rui Yu. Kathryn was my Aunt Fay’s second daughter who died in an auto accident a week before her high school graduation. It looked like Aunt Fay would never have a grand daughter to use the name and my mom suggested that I consider it for YuYu. I love the name, but I’m not too excited about any of the common nicknames: Kitty, Kathy and there were like four Katies in Mimi’s preschool class, so that wasn’t an option either. Luckily, YuYu has clung to her Chinese nickname and doesn’t even remember her given name from time to time. Marta is my maternal great grandmother who was strong, resourceful and courageous. If she ever wants to use either name, I’m all for it, but she’ll always be YuYu (treasure treasure) to me. YuYu was in foster care (with a warm and adoring family) until I adopted her at 4.5 years old in November 2004. She will be seven years old next month, is three months older than Mimi, adopted out of birth order with no apparent issues, yet.

And then came Nora. I finally got my Eleanor. She is Eleanor Elaine Xiao Ye. Elaine is my maternal aunt who has successfully raised 11 children and is what I like to call a Shiite Mormon (in full friend shipping armor all the time) and I love her to bits despite and because of it. Nora’s Chinese name is beautiful: morning leaf, isn’t that lovely? But she dropped it like a dirt clod within a week of coming home, insisting: “No Xiao Ye, NO rah!” She was exactly the same age as YuYu was on adoption day, 4.5 years old, but had only been in foster care (with a family that couldn’t control her) for 4-5 months prior to adoption. Being institutionalized has taken a big toll on my girl. She will be six years old in July and is ten months younger, chronologically, than Mimi, but years behind emotionally.

My own name is a contraction for Margaret or Marjorie, neither of which I was lucky enough to be given. Because I was cheated out of a real name, it was very important to me to choose solid, traditional, real names for my girls. They all have easy, fun nicknames they can use until the nicknames don’t suit them anymore, if ever. I also incorporated their orphanage names (except for Mimi, her orphanage name had negative baggage, so I used her home town) and they can use those names if they want to get in touch with their cultural roots some day. But, if the circumstance requires, they can assert their fully loaded names when the weight and heft I hope they symbolize may come in useful.

*After we had been home for over a year, I remembered that the egroup was still hanging out there. I sat at my desk and carefully copied each post of my heartfelt sentiments, my excited utterances as we say in the legal biz. The posts printed out to my little printer on the credenza behind me. I heard them, the little printer whirred its reassuring whir and I knew I had captured my thoughts in hard copy for time and eternity, as we like to say in Mormon culture central. So when Yahoo sternly and with much gravity questioned my willingness to delete the group, I was convinced of my actions and pulled the trigger with confidence. Only after the cursor clicked did I turn around and look at the printouts to discover, to my horror, that all I had printed was the advertisements and page format surrounding the posts: no content. Nothing, not a single word is left of my first impressions of my treasure treasure, sob.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Spirit of Giving

Or, not so much. I went to a mall, on a Saturday, with four little kids, where do I pick up MY reward? We braved the gaping open mouthed stares from the mall denizens, (yeah, it still surprises me that once we move outside our regular circles, like our neighborhood Albertsons where a middle-aged mom with four Asian kids lashed to her cart doesn't cause a stir any longer, people flat out stare and do the clown college double take as we walk by, I don't think I imagine it, but maybe) as we skidded into Build-A-Bear today to help stuff four bears that will hopefully make it into the arms of kids who need their own homes, but will have to take a bear in a pinch. The working premise is that the bears stuffed at the Build-a-Bear Stuffed with Hugs day, which will eventually trickle down to LOOK Project, another inspiring parent-driven charitable initiative to help meet the needs of the thousands of older children living in Chinese orphanages who may never finds homes. So, keeping things in perspective, paying the emotional price of being ignored by every single sales clerk in the Limited Too this afternoon is a mere piffle in comparison to the reasons and need for this project, so happy to do it.
But, let me tell you that there was no small suffering at the Limited Too. I was ignored to the point I just had to leave the items on the counter after standing there with my credit card in hand like a big bird for a long time. I started to get really steamed and was on the verge of dressing down the nearest 19-year-old to whom I had apparently become invisible, when I thought, heck, no, I can just get this stuff on line. I told Ellie that was the new plan and we blew that pop stand so we could go home and buy them where no one could aggravate mommy in real life. And, this coming on top of the jackass who pulled into the gas station island ahead of me and STOPPED at the first pump. When he got out to take the cap off his tank, I leaned out my window and passively agressively asked him if the first pump had special gas that he couldn't get at the second pump if he had JUST PULLED AHEAD. I bit my tongue to his sharp as a tack answer that he hadn't seen me pull in behind him. I wanted to jump out and get in his face and ask him why my arrival time had anything the HELL to do with pulling forward like a normal Earth citizen. Hmm, if I ever need hormone replacement therapy, I hope they hold the testosterone, I mostly don't need more.

But check out Mimi. She did not want to leave that bear behind. I know, it's creepy to take pictures of your kids when they're crying and distressed, but I thought it would be great to have this photo when she's an adult so I can show her how much she has grown and matured. Provided, of course, that she does grow and mature and develop compassion and that this picture will seem funny in 10 years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Family Fun Nite

How to rock Family Fun Nite (and yes, I spell checked):

a) Lose the tween. Ellie was gone like a shot within minutes of entering the school yard. She joined up with her peeps, it looked like there was some tag happening, I may have seen some boys in the mix, I was too far away to see clearly, but hair may have been tossed, too hard to tell if it was tossed with intent, but wah, my baby is not a baby anymore. Ellie and her core homies roamed the field between the bounce house and the deflated shark slide (anything more sad than a flat inflatable with a busted zipper and hundreds of slide happy elementary kids?) like exquisitely beautiful and wholly unself-conscious 10 year old royals, my heart was set to burst and I didn't even get one photo.

b) Power up. Hit the snow cone and cotton candy lines first, before the crowds gather, and load up on empty calories, you're going to need everyone of those thermal units in just a mere 55 minutes. Oh good hell, I stood in line for the bounce house for 55 long, long, soul searingly long minutes. I tried to talk to the mom in line behind me, but all she wanted to talk about was how great I am for "what I did." Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm a plucky gal intent on saving every homeless waif in the world, I'm so good-hearted, I'm a saint, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh good hell, how many different ways can I say, "Oh no, I'm the lucky one," before some people will take the hint and let me own my decision to become a parent for the self-same reasons THEY became a parent: because I wanted to be a parent and love my children. Sheesh, some people. But, on the bright side, as I died on the vine, keeping Nora and Mimi from bickering while they hung on my arms and stepped on my feet while simultaneously tamping down my urge to slap the other mom and tell her to dry up, I did hear some interesting talk. It may all be my imagination, but if the word on the street is credible, it looks like I'm a shoo-in for Middle Aged Mother of the Year award and my heroic achievement in the bounce house line just might have put me over the top. If the rumors are true and I'm called to claim the title, I'll wear the crown proudly.

c) Bounce. Bounce big baby, yeah, bounce like tomorrow may never come. Bounce like you'll never bounce again (and you won't bounce again tonight, for damn sure, because crown or no crown, this middle-aged mom is NOT standing in that soul-shredding line in this life time, or until next year, which ever comes first). That's it work it, work it, sell it, sell it, show me some life, give it to the camera, that's it, that's it. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

d) Power down. Hit the snack line one more time before you call it a night, you earned it, you deserve it. Take that party on home, it's time to roll up the sidewalks.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Oops, I forgot to get married

Good night nurse, I’m a single mom. I've never had the kind of personality that lent itself to nicknaming. I have a hard time calling people I don't know well, I mean really well, by a nickname. It just doesn't sit well with me, makes me uncomfortable with a familiarity that has not been earned. And since my own lame name is a contraction for a real name (all my girls all have real names in case they ever need them, letterhead, prescription pads, that kind of thing), I've never had a nickname of my own, until now: the human blur. Kindly please refer to me in all future correspondence as either The Human Blur or, for short, just The Blur, but only where dictated by lack of space. Thank you in advance for your considered compliance with this request.

But, when I think “single mom,” I don’t think of me, you know? I’ve got resources. I’ve got support. I’ve got a good education and initials behind my name (although it has been my experience that only the truly affected JDs among us ever use their JD in print). My parents are still halfway hale and hardy. I have great friends with skills of the hammer swinging, spade fork yielding, pool filter fixing variety. I’m self-employed, and although that comes with its own uniquely excruciating worries, I was able to leave my office at noon today so I could scramble to pull a Ready, Set, Let’s Camp try-it badge together replete with 12 bandanas, a hand-out on lightening safety written by a girl who survived a direct hit, 12 two-foot lengths or nylon cord with the ends individually singed to eliminate unsightly fraying, AND every-one-can-help-make-trail-mix that even contained a home-made component. Now that would have only been impressive IF I was a single mom who worked a rigid, clock in, clock out, ask in advance for time-off, schedule, and lived on a limited budget and had to be creative AND thrifty (no trail mix with 12 exotic ingredients because I had waited to the last minute and that’s all I could think up while standing in the middle of the grocery store like the proverbial deer in the headlights), and didn’t have the luxury of stashing Mimi and Nora with the grandparents last night because kindergarten is on a 2-day hiatus this week.

So I squinted a little bit when the news article to which I did fully consent, the photographer didn’t have to pull a paparazzi to get the pictures, obviously, appeared under the sub-heading of a long-running Trib series: Single in Utah. Yeah, so, I’m single, and that’s relevant how? The single part, truly, truly, seldom crosses my mind. I just don’t define what I do day to day as single parenting. I just work and then I parent. Single doesn’t enter the equation on a daily basis. I never made finding a partner a goal, again, obviously, because I guess I could have been married a couple of times but was either too immature or too independent to make the final commitment. Because I didn’t and don’t have a husband, it never, ever occurred to me that I wouldn’t be a mother, ever. I did not realize that some people would be critical of that decision, never crossed my mind, ever. I did not agonize over the decision to become a single parent, ever (well besides the closest I’ve ever come to an anxiety attack in the Chongqing Marriott the night before Mimi’s adoption, but I recovered). Maybe I should have approached the adventure more thoughtfully. Maybe I should have actually read that big hardback book I bought while I was waiting for Ellie, but it was all filled with unwed mother angst that I just did not have. Who the hell should care whether I was married or not? I didn’t and I assumed that the baby I would bring home to be slathered with love, lotion and Baby Gap wouldn’t care either. And because I am the queen of self-delusion when I really really want something very badly, I never second-guessed the wisdom of my decision and then proceeded to surround myself with like-minded people who also thought a baby raised by a single parent was better off than a baby not raised by anyone. And besides, a strong mother and an ineffective father raised me; it just feels like I am repeating the pattern minus the guy in the short-sleeved poly-blend dress shirt and the clip-on tie.

So when Jennifer* took the focus of this article into the land of cheap sperm delivered to your doorstep, I didn’t see myself in it because I never felt that deliberate about the kind of choice I made. My mother and I in the delivery room together would have been so inconsistent with my lingering teen-age romanticized vision of giving birth with the right man holding my hand; it would have taken too much personal bravery to make that choice. But, I guess, that is how others must see me and others like me, all lumped in the plucky to be a parent category, but I don’t see it that way. I just don’t feel like in 2007 that the choices I’ve made could be viewed as bucking convention or trail blazing or even plucky. Parenting is a privilege, to be sure, but to me, because I wanted to and I could, it felt more like an entitlement. I was never told no and can’t begin to think how I would have responded if I had been denied the opportunity of loving a child because I could not find the love of an adult male person.

I am sincerely and deeply saddened for the potentially thousands of single parents who have now been told that the dream of parenthood will not come true for them in China. I am hurt for the children who will not be slathered head to precious toe in the awe and adoration of a mother who chose to love them and rear them because she could and she really really wanted to.

If I thought for one minute that giving the unknowable and unmovable bureaucrats a good piece of my mind would make any difference in this world, I’d be on the first China Southern cattle car out of LAX to hand it to them on a silver salver, so help me god I would.

*Jennifer Barrett is also an adoptive parent and we are connected through mutual friends and her husband is a professional colleague of mine. Made it hard to say no when she called with the idea of a Mother’s Day article about single parenting by choice. I ended up saying yes because, if there’s a woman out there who is on the fence and reads that someone as inept as I am can muddle through and keep four kids fed, clean, clothed and loved, then just about any monkey could do it too. And maybe that woman will pick up the phone and call a home-study provider and say: ”Hey, it’s time to make a few dreams come true around this place, who do I need to talk to first?”

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Little Swinger


I raced uptown to see Ellie's music program at 1:30 pm, grousing and grumbling the whole way. If the program had just started a half hour later, at 2:00, school is out at 3:15 and I could have just knocked off for the rest of the day and felt good about it. Instead, I knocked off for the rest of the day and felt put out and guilty about it. I imagine there's a good reason why the kids had to return to their classrooms for what I am sure was a stunningly productive 45 minutes after the program ended, but I can't think what that reason might be. But even though I was peeved and feeling pissy about what I perceived to be inept and inconsiderate event planning on behalf of the elementary school faculty, I walked right out into the silver lining. I left through the back doors to walk back home across the rear playground. Some classes were at recess on a very welcome warm and sunny day. I spied YuYu on the monkey bars and was able to watch her playing, unnoticed, from across the yard until she finally saw me and I went closer to give her a hug. What a treat to watch her at play, when she didn't know I was spying. She is so uninhibited and happy. This little girl knows how to have fun. She just flipped and jumped and laughed and smiled and I smiled too. Her shirt says World Champion Giggler. Of course she didn't win it in a competition, but she could have.


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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Single Mom Succumbs

West Valley City – Authorities were not surprised to find an adult female, slumped over and lifeless at a local indoor amusement park last weekend. Tragically, because death by seedy amusement park can be so easily prevented, she leaves behind a family of four young girls ages five through ten. The children, who were brave and not all that upset because they were pretty worn out anyway, went willingly into shelter care pending notification of nearest relatives because they were allowed to play just a little bit longer before leaving with DCFS officials.
Emergency medical technicians responding to the incident indicated that they were often called to the facility under similar circumstances. ‘Yeah, sure, it’s usually the older ones with little kids. They’re just not accustomed to the noise, the smells, the inanity and we find ‘em this way all the time . . . sad, really,” said West Valley paramedic Jim Tooyoung. “It can be a lot of things that cause it. See, here, the strap on her hand bag is too short and was probably sliding down her shoulder all day. That alone can be fatally annoying.”
Misty Dampears, ticket counter manager at Hollywood Connection, said she had noticed that the dead woman was holding way too many jackets for far too long before she noticed the wall of lockers installed for safe keeping of personal items. “For sure, older parents as human coat racks either freak out and just have to be taken away or they just go kind of internal with it and keel over,” said Ms. Dampears. “This woman hauled those coats around way too long. I didn’t see her lose it, but it was probably making her real mad inside, you know?”
It has been discovered that the woman was found sometime after she paid too much for frozen and not completely cooked pizza that her children would not eat for lunch. There also might have been a spill of a sticky soft drink at the unfortunate woman’s lunch table, but the condition of the floor under the table made it impossible to tell if the goo on the floor was recent or had occurred much earlier. “Any time you get an older parent, consession stand food and a spilled Sprite, well, you’re just asking for this kind of trouble,” concluded restaurant manager Fly Speck.
Paramedic TooYoung also speculates that the spilled soft drink could have added to her stress level and made her more vulnerable to system breakdown. “It’s kind of like these old ones just don’t remember the thrill of being little and riding anything that twirls and lifts them at least 10 feet in the air. They forget that it’s all about the kids and let the stress of the environment overtake them.”
“I wish more older parents would adjust their attitudes before they come to a place like this. We take too many kids to shelter care from this place because some parents just don’t get it. They’re not bad parents, just horribly unprepared for the conditions they face once they arrive here,” added Carol Riskco of DCFS.
The photos from the dead woman’s cell phone are being published with the article in hope that the childrens' grandparents may recognize them and contact DCFS immediately.